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Finnair Blames ‘Sad’ and ‘Illegal’ Flight Attendant Strike For Mass Flight Cancellations On Sunday and Monday

Finnair Blames ‘Sad’ and ‘Illegal’ Flight Attendant Strike For Mass Flight Cancellations On Sunday and Monday

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Finnair accused its flight attendant union of calling an “illegal” strike which has resulted in at least 100 flight cancellations on Sunday and Monday in an increasingly bitter dispute over pay and benefits.

The Helsinki-based airline has threatened to lay off around 450 flight attendants unless they accept pay cuts and sweeping changes to their terms of employment.

Directly employed flight attendants represented by the Automotive and Transportation Workers Union (AKT) are to stage a 24-hour walkout starting at 3 pm Sunday, Sunday, 20th November in protest at what they claim are “blackmail” measures from the airline.

A Finnair spokesperson said the airline would cancel around 100 flights from its Helsinki hub, although the actual number of cancellations could be much higher because Finnair has not counted flights returning to Helsinki that will be disrupted.

“It is sad that the labour union has chosen the path of an illegal strike instead of negotiations,” commented Finnair’s chief operating officer Jaakko Schildt on Sunday.

“Throughout the autumn, we have discussed savings possibilities with the unions, but unfortunately, we have not been able to achieve a result with cabin crew. We still hope to find solutions together,” Schildt continued.

Finnair only directly employs 1,750 flight attendants in Finland with the rest of its inflight workforce made up of cheaper subcontracted agency staff – the majority of whom are employed overseas.

Last week, the airline told its directly employed flight attendants that unless they accepted big pay cuts and changes to their terms and conditions, it planned to lay off 450 crew and transfer these jobs to subcontracted agency staff who would operate flights to Thailand and the United States.

Finnair already has agency cabin crew in India, Singapore, Copenhagen and Stockholm. These crew will not be taking part in the strike action and flights to Singapore, and India won’t be affected by the walkout.

Finnair’s senior vice president of communication Päivyt Tallqvist told us yesterday that subcontracted agency staff could be employed in Finland, but the union fears that jobs could be offshored.

While many airlines are giving in to union demands for big pay raises, Finnair says it must cut costs in order to survive. The airline’s long-haul business strategy has been decimated by the pandemic and the closure of Russian airspace, and it now trying to pivot to a more geographically balanced business model.

Last month, Finnair reported its first quarterly operating profit since 2019 and said that it expects strong demand to continue despite economic headwinds.

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